90-minute power failure leaves COVID-19 patients gasping for oxygen

A 90-minute power failure in some areas of ward number 66 on Monday night put the lives of over 20 COVID-19 patients at risk. These patients were in home isolation and had been using oxygen concentrators.

The oxygen concentrators run on power. Without backup, families of most patients went through anxious moments till power was restored.

According to residents, power went off at 9.09 p.m. on Monday in areas in and around Rajajinagar, Mahalakshmi Layout and Malleswaram. It was restored at 10.40 p.m. after repeated calls to the jurisdictional Bescom officials.

A few patients residing on Subramanyanagar Main road, Milk Colony and Gayatrinagar told The Hindu that those who had power backup (UPS) at home managed to run the concentrators for around 45 minutes. The rest were in a bad state. Most resorted to proning exercise to improve their oxygen levels even as their families made all possible efforts to restore power supply.

Bescom officials attributed the problem to transmission issues by the KPTCL. “A 220 KV line of KPTCL had tripped. After getting calls from some residents, I spoke to the KPTCL MD. Power was restored after the problem was set right,” said M.B. Rajesh Gowda, MD, Bescom.

KPTCL Chief Engineer for Bangalore Metro Area Zone (BMAZ) Chandrashekariah said the problem was due to equipment failure at the Nelamangala station. “It was not a scheduled breakdown. The tripped line had to be set right. Although we supplied power through a line change from another station, it took a while for power to be restored in the entire ward,” he said, adding that it did not take more than 30 minutes.

Recalling the harrowing 90 minutes spent by oxygen-dependent patients without power, Dr. Namitha A. Kumar, a resident of Subramanyanagar Main Road, who is part of the Centre for Health Ecologies and Technology (CHET), said a major disaster was averted. “Fortunately, we did not lose anyone though we came close to that. This is a lesson learnt,” she said.

Many COVID-19 patients are forced to manage with rented oxygen concentrators at home due to non-availability of beds in hospitals. “These concentrators run on power. They can give up to 10 litres of oxygen per minute. Disruption in power supply was not an issue in our area, and none of us had anticipated a sudden power failure. After this incident, volunteers bought 12 oxygen cylinders from Peenya for a few patients, who could afford to pay ₹15,000 per cylinder,” she said.

“It was harrowing for one elderly couple. Both are COVID-19 patients. The husband had recovered while the wife, who has diabetes, had low saturation and was on a concentrator. With great difficulty, she was proned, but the husband reported at one point that her saturation dipped to 29. After power was restored, a doctor in the area attended to her. Thankfully, she has improved now,” said Dr. Namitha.

Another resident said proning is not so easy for the elderly with arthritis, and COVID-19 patients are already fatigued and not in a position to do proning easily. “The power cut was a nightmare with each minute passing by without steady oxygen. None of the patients had cylinders and were in great discomfort,” the resident said.

“While power was restored to some areas like Gayatrinagar by 9.50 p.m., there was no sight of power in Subramanyanagar till 10.10 p.m. Bescom officials were helpful, but could not do much. Eventually, we got power at 10.40 p.m.,” the resident recalled.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 7:49:56 PM |

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